February had, as usual, a beautiful week of blue skies and sun. It happens almost every year. Certainly Mother Nature does this to remind us that the best is yet to come. It’s difficult to envision sunny days when we wake to gray skies for a week. Early bulbs sprouted and bloomed, as a prelude to Spring. Crocus and Snowbells seemed to race each other for the first flowering. It’s an opportune time to ponder what additions or deletions one wishes to accomplish in the coming year.
Growing foodstuffs is the new trend in gardening. Chemical and genetic engineering is at the forefront of concerns for many. Many people are now mingling edibles into the flower beds and shrub rows. March is the ideal time to plant onion sets, potatoes, spinach and sweet peas. Addition of soil building products are best worked in with a fork or shovel rather than tilling in wet soil. Mechanically working wet soil will compact it and make restrict the ability of roots to spread easily.
Early blooming shrubs are getting ready to bloom soon and you can push them for early home decor by bringing in cut branches. Prune out crossing branches, immerse in a vase of water and bring into a warm house. Plants are very similar to bread in that bread dough needs warm temperatures to rise and warmth from your house will cause the buds to burst into flower far sooner than would occur outside. A bonus result may even be root formation. These rooted branches can be potted and left to grow in a shady place until fall, when they can be planted into the garden with a beefy rootball attached.
Some plants are known for being plagued by insects during the growing season. Flowering plums are notorious for caterpillar damage to the leaves. Some plants get a gray downy form of mildew or leaves that twist and discolor during the summer. The difference in these is that one is an insect and the other is a fungus. Insects are dealt with insect killing methods. Fungus is dealt with by the application of fungicides. They are not interchangeable and should not be used indiscriminately.
Trees and shrubs can be sprayed with dormant oil during the winter and early spring. This product is a very fine oil that is added to water and sprayed over the entire branch structure. Any insects, larvae and eggs laid in the crevices of the bark are covered by the oil and seeps into the breathing orifices, thus smothering them to death. It is the easiest way to “nip them in the bud” before they hatch out and begin their damage. Fungicide can be applied similarly and can stave off future mildew problems. Read your fungicide label for appropriate application technique. Once again, spraying before the leaves emerge can go a long way toward keeping your plants healthy. Ideally, certain plants that are prone to mildew, should be sprayed several times as the leaves are emerging, thus covering new growth and keeping it resistant to the spores that cause trouble.
Fungus can appear as scab on apple, black spot on roses, “shot-hole” on broadleaf evergreens and rust on hollyhocks. It manifests itself in many ways. Hold it in check with a fungicide and your garden will be easier, more rewarding and healthier every succeeding year. We use copper spray registered as organic.
Slugs. The bane of the Pacific Northwest gardener. Slugs can be controlled for up to 3 consecutive years in my experience. How, you ask? Every Saturday morning, make a stroll through your garden with Sluggo or a similar product. Slugs consume it and go away, shortly thereafter expiring from consumption of iron derivatives. Harmless to pets, wildlife and birds, it reliably kills slugs. Do this once a week for an entire season and you will be relatively slug free for an extended period. The key is consistent use so as to eliminate several generations as they emerge. Go forth and garden. Spring is right around the corner. Place your special orders with the small local nurseries that struggle against the big box stores. Local nurseries know plants for our area. Personalized help from knowledgable people who love what they do.
Written by Diana Politika, owner of The Greenhouse Nursery, located on Highway 101 and S. Bagley Creek Road. The Greenhouse has been in continuous operation since 1992. The entire team here has a passion for our work. We are a rarity in this age where most orders are placed online and delivered in bulk. We grow many plants ourselves that cannot be found on the casual market. Hours of operation vary depending on the season. Follow us on Facebook for the most up to date